Hawaiʻi Pathologists' Laboratory provides Autopsy Services to The Queen's Medical Center physicians and the families of deceased Queen’s Medical Center patients. An autopsy provides valuable medical information and often closure to a patient’s family. In each case, an attempt is made to ascertain the main and ancillary diseases and their extent, effect of treatment, and cause of death.
Autopsies are typically performed within a few hours of a patient’s death. A complete autopsy involves examination of organs from all body cavities, including chest, abdomen, and cranium. However, a physician or patient’s family may opt to restrict the autopsy to a limited area. Immediately following the autopsy, the body cavities are closed with stitches, and the designated mortuary is notified.
Preliminary autopsy diagnoses are available within two days of the procedure, and final autopsy reports are generally sent to the patient’s referring doctor within one month. Complex cases may require up to 45 days for completion. In most cases, the doctor discusses this final report with the family and interprets the autopsy findings.
Autopsies may be performed only with the signed consent of the deceased patient’s legal next-of-kin or designated durable power of attorney for healthcare. Priority of legal authority for autopsy consent is based on the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes as follows: 1) spouse (unless divorced) 2) adult child (usually eldest), 3) parent or legal guardians 4) grandparents and other next-of-kin 5) in the absence of next-of-kin, a friend or person charged by law with responsibility for burial. The attending physician or physician pronouncing death is responsible for obtaining permission for an autopsy and for completion of the death certificate.
In cases where the manner of death is suspected to be non-natural. In possible medicolegal cases, the Department of the Hawaiʻi Medical Examiner must be contacted prior to any discussion of autopsy permission or organ donation. Cases falling under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner include all violent deaths (homicide, suicide, accident), sudden unexpected death, death within 24 hours of admission to the hospital or when not under the care of a physician, or in any suspicious or unusual circumstances. In general, these cases will be autopsied at the Department of the Medical Examiner and do not require an autopsy permit. Other cases under their jurisdiction may be released by the Medical Examiner if the probable cause of death can be arrived at from clinical examination or if the cause of death is natural. Documentation of the Medical Examiner's release is required prior to an autopsy at The Queen's Medical Center for any case considered to be under their legal jurisdiction.
Autopsies are performed at no charge on Queen's Medical Center patients (up to 1 year after discharge). In addition to examining patients who died within the hospital, some outside or private autopsies are also performed, at the request of the physician or family members, and at the discretion of the pathologist. In this situation, the patient’s family pays for this special examination.
For private autopsies, please contact The Queen's Medical Center Department of Pathology at (808) 691-4271.